Birkenhead's House of Fraser store SAVED from closure

Wirral Globe - 24 Sep 2018
On Sunday it was revealed that the branch was among 20 House of Fraser outlets who had agreed new terms with landlords.

The town's MP Frank Field told the Globe: "This news will give a tremendous boost to Birkenhead.

"Six weeks ago, I wrote to Mike Ashley with an urgent plea to safeguard the future of our House of Fraser and the jobs of the store’s staff.

"Thanks to the positive discussions that have taken place since then with the store’s landlord, this cornerstone of our town centre is being given a chance to flourish once again."

Before the takeover, creditors had voted to shut Birkenhead's House of Fraser which is one of 31 earmarked for closure through a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: "We are delighted House of Fraser in Birkenhead will remain open.

"After a difficult Summer I am sure the staff are relieved to hear this news and hope this marks a turning point in the fortunes of our town centre. 

"Across the country, retail is changing and high streets are having to change to keep up with shoppers demands and expectations.

"We have a lot of work to do, but this is good news and we are grateful for Mike Ashley and his new ownerships team's confidence in Birkenhead."

The Globe exclusively revealed on September 12 that Mr Field had arranged a meeting with Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley in a last-ditch attempt to save the store from closure.

In his letter, dated August 14 Mr Field congratulated Mr Ashley on purchasing House of Fraser.

He continued: "I have been really encouraged to read over the past couple of days of your wish to keep open the vast majority of stores.

"The purpose of this letter is to ask whether you might include the Birkenhead store within that group.

"The most favourable option among most of the town would, naturally, be for the store's future to be secured in its current form.

"Might I please ask whether that is an option, and, if not, would you please consider and alternative suggestion for the use of the store which both boosts your online sales strategy and draws upon the strengths of the Birkenhead workforce?

"I hope the country will begin to see a revival of House of Fraser by bringing its online shopping to the front of its activity.

"Might any such initiative you're planning on this front please be based in the Birkenhead store - a large, functional and well-placed facility - where you have a tremendously loyal staff?

"I'm sure they would wish to develop their skills further to meet the next stage of the life of House of Fraser.

"Your store in Birkenhead occupies an iconic building which, while I realise cannot be your first concern, would be a huge bonus in setting standards of preserving the environment within which House of Fraser works."

In response, Mr Ashley said that he would 'very much like' the opportunity to speak about the future of the Birkenhead store.

He said: "As you can appreciate things are very busy at the moment and I suggest that this meeting takes place towards the end of September.

"This will enable us to get more of a handle on the House of Fraser business in the meantime."

Lauren Jones, Wirral Globe